I talked a little about my viewpoints on Chinese radios in my post entitled “Low Cost Ham Radio Options” back in September. I’d like to expand on that viewpoint a bit here.
When I got my first ham license, the choices for which radios to purchase was much more slim than it is now. This was in 1994, so the internet was around, but in its infancy. Most people still had AOL dial-up, and many companies didn’t have websites yet. Ecommerce wasn’t nearly what it is today. Given these facts, there were limited choices on where to purchase Amateur Radio equipment; be it radios, antennas, meters, coax, etc.
The most obvious place to pickup these items would be an Amateur Radio store or supplier. There were a couple of these in the area, including Tucker Electronics (who stopped selling Amateur equipment a few years later) and Radio Shack. The good thing about Radio Shack is that there is one on nearly every corner. Back in 1994, Radio Shack actually sold radios. Go figure. And since RadShack made their own brand of radios, they could sell them at a cheaper price than the YaeComWood market prices. (Radio Shack HTX radios were actually made by Icom, but they had the Radio Shack or Realistic name on them).
A brought a brand new HTX-202 in 1994, with a rechargeable NiCAD battery, plus a AA battery pack, and charger for $189. Plus the external hand-mic for another $20. All told, it was a mono-band 2M HT with 5-watts of power for $200. My next choice of radio in the YaeComWood world would around $300-$350 for an HT.
Today, we have the Baofeng, TYT and Wouxun radios, all of which are dual-band, and sell for $100 or less. On Amazon, you can pickup a BaoFeng UV-5R Dual Band Radio for $30. Free shipping for Prime Members (and I think for non-prime too since it is over $25)
Is the Baofeng $30 job as good as a YaeComWood? Of course not. Is the Wouxun $100 rig as good as a Yaesu FT-60R DualBand Handheld? No way, for many reasons, not the least of which is the simple feel of the radio in your hand. The Baofeng is made of plastic, is very small, and is somewhat more challenging to program without a computer cable and software. But holding the radio and keying up with it – you can tell it isn’t very high quality. However, reports over the air usually come back with positive feedback.
So what is more important? Having a name-brand radio or being on the air? Should we consider these radios sub-par and boycott them? Or perhaps should we consider them a great entry point for those interested in Ham Radio?
If you want to promote Ham Radio to your friends or family and get them interested in the hobby, would it be easier to persuade them if you offered them a link to a $30 radio or a $200 radio? For someone on the fence about the hobby, due to how much money we can all drop on it, which is more persuasive? I daresay that a $30 radio is a fantastic way to talk someone into becoming a new ham. And promoting ham radio, in any form, is a good thing in my opinion.
So bring on the Chinese market. Let them flourish in our domain of Amateur radio, and let them improve on their quality over time, with money that we give them for their products. Who wouldn’t want a mono-band 50-watt mobile radio for $150? Or a dual-band HT for $30? How many of us seasoned hams have more radios than we can use at once, anyway? I know that I do. And I don’t plan to stop anytime soon, either. 😉